When a long day at the computer has you reaching up to rub your aching neck, or standing in line for hours for concert tickets kills your back, you can bet your posture is to blame. A strong musculoskeletal system and some conscious effort on your part to avoid slouching and slumping can prevent neck pain and back pain from interfering with your job and your joys.
But if your mother’s warning wasn’t enough to get you in the habit of minding your posture and you find yourself paying the price now, we can help. Our team here at Roswell Pain and Weight Loss Specialists, led by Dr. Damon Christian Kimes, treats all types of back and neck pain, whether it’s caused by poor posture, arthritis, or injury.
What good posture looks like
Of course, you can do a lot on your own to relieve some of your pain by making adjustments to your posture. The problem is, many people don’t even realize what good posture looks like, so here are a few simple tips to make sure you’re sitting and standing correctly:
- Your ears should be aligned directly above your shoulders. You should be able to draw a straight vertical line through your ears and shoulders.
- Your shoulders should be back, not forward.
- Your chest should be open, a natural byproduct of pulling your shoulders back.
If you focus on these three elements of posture, you’ll keep your body in a neutral position and minimize stress and pain.
What happens to your neck with bad posture?
Bad posture affects your neck in three ways.
When you sit or stand with your head leaning forward, you put a lot of stress on your cervical spine, which is the section of your spine that includes your neck. It may not seem like a big deal, but your head weighs about 10-12 pounds, and every inch you bend forward effectively increases that weight by 10 pounds. So just an inch or two off center can do some real damage over time.
A healthy neck has a gentle curve when your head is in its normal position. But when you lean your head forward, the vertebrae in your lower neck tilt forward, too, and your neck goes into hyperflexion. To compensate, the upper part of your cervical spine hyperextends. This combo move straightens the natural curve and stretches your spinal cord and nerves.
In an attempt to keep your head balanced, your neck muscles come into play. If you’re constantly leaning forward, this job becomes much more difficult and fatigues your muscles to the point where they go into spasms or become strained.
What happens to your back with bad posture?
Just like your neck, your back can end up taking the brunt of the pain when you don’t pay attention to your posture.
Hunching over for long periods of time does a number on your back muscles, but also the other muscles that support your body, like your obliques and abs. After a while, they show signs of stress and strain, becoming stiff, weak, and achy.
Prolonged bending or leaning adds extra pressure on your spinal column and the vertebrae and discs within it. Eventually, something’s got to give, and it’s often your discs that slip out of place or herniate.
Just like your cervical spine, your lumbar spine (the lower part) has a natural curve. But the way you bend to work on your laptop or play video games forces that curve into an abnormal position that causes aches and pains.
Treating posture-related neck and back pain
If, despite all the warnings, you’ve neglected your posture, it’s not too late to make things right. Now that you know what good posture should look like, you have a good foundation and a goal. The next steps include:
- Becoming more aware of your posture
- Asking others to remind you to straighten up
- Making sure your workstation is ergonomically sound
- Strengthening your core muscles
- Engaging in posture-friendly exercises
And if you already have pain from poor posture, come see Dr. Kimes. He can treat your pain whether it’s a temporary spasm or a more serious condition like a herniated disc or a compressed nerve. From conservative treatments like massage therapy, chiropractic care, and physical therapy to more assertive techniques like steroid injections and platelet-rich plasma therapy, you’re sure to find relief.
To find out more about proper posture and how to treat your aching neck and back, call us at our office in Roswell, Georgia, or book your appointment online.